Anime Films

All the Anime Movies That Made 2021 Worth the Price of Admission

From "Given" to "My Hero Academia."
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On top of having several (and I mean several) anime series to watch in 2021, we also had a couple of movie releases – both theatrically and via streaming. To be perfectly honest, I’ve enjoyed every anime movie I got to watch this year, so this list is basically a recap of the films I watched and why they were so enjoyable (along with links to where you can watch them, of course, if they’re available).

Given the Movie

Synopsis: The seasons change, and with it comes a new opportunity for the band. As Mafuyu attempts to write a new song for the audition for an upcoming music festival, he learns about the complicated relationship between Akihiko and his ex-boyfriend Ugetsu. The two still live together and are unable to fully move past each other. Meanwhile, Haruki harbors unrequited feelings for Akihiko.

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Review quote: I love the message of how walking away from something you’ve grown accustomed to, even if it’s painful, is hard. You have no idea what’s out there and it’s scary to venture off into the unknown. While it’s so easy to just write someone off as not being willing to walk away from shitty circumstances, the bottom line is that sometimes people are too scared to because the alternative could potentially be worse.

It’s hard walking away from painful love when you’re not sure you’re gonna get love at all once you leave, especially if you’re queer.

You can check out my full review here.

You can also check out the live-action Given series, which was also released this year and is pretty darn cute.

Watch this movie if you’re in the mood for: Messy, but real relationships, and working your way toward newfound love after you take the necessary steps to become a better person. Also? New song from Mafuyu, always a bonus.

The Stranger by the Shore

Shun Kisses Mio

 

Synopsis: The Stranger by the Shore follows the love story of Shun Hashimoto, an aspiring novelist, and Mio Chibana, a grieving young man, who both find more than they bargained for during a time of transition. As each day passes, both young men find themselves in an ever-unique, undisturbed voyage of friendship and romance. But self-doubt, family, acceptance, and fear will challenge these young men, as nothing worth fighting for goes without taking chances.

Where to watch: Funimation

Review quote: The Stranger by the Shore is very much a love story, but beyond that, it’s a story about working out your feelings in regard to your sexuality and who you are. While there is obviously an attraction between Shun and Mio, they can’t come close to fully exploring that until they work through their issues of self-doubt and uncertainty—especially Shun. Shun has the biggest conflict in regard to queerness, and it prevents him from fully embracing Mio and, more importantly, himself.

You can check out my full review here.

You can also check out my interview with the dub cast here.

Watch this movie if you’re in the mood for: A queer love story that shows that we can’t fully embrace the love someone has for us until we learn to love ourselves. Also, lots of fluffy found family moments.

Josee, the Tiger and the Fish

 

Synopsis: Tsuneo, an ordinary college student, and avid diver, unexpectedly becomes the caretaker of a young woman in order to raise money for this dream to go diving in Mexico. This young woman, who calls herself Josee after her favorite book character, is sullen and demanding, but as Tsuneo helps Josee interact with the outside world and learns more about Josee’s unique perspective, their feelings grow into love. The two begin to support each other in ways beyond just romance.

Where to watch: Was in theaters over the summer, no word on a streaming or physical release, but it was licensed by Funimation.

Review quote: Josee, The Tiger and the Fish is the perfect summer anime romance. It’s a story that’s full of visually stunning animation, extremely likable characters, an engaging plot, and a lead couple that you’re rooting for from start to finish. Josee and Tsuneo are going to make your heart run through a wide array of emotions, some good, some painful, but at the end of the day, incredibly honest and beautiful.

You can check out my full review here.

Watch this movie if you’re in the mood for: Romance, angst, plenty of fluff, an extremely touching romantic grand gesture, and an endearing, bickering couple who will put a smile on your face.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train

Synopsis: Falling forever into an endless dream… Tanjiro and the group have completed their rehabilitation training at the Butterfly Mansion, and they arrive to their next mission on the Mugen Train, where over 40 people have disappeared in a very short period of time. Tanjiro and Nezuko, along with Zenitsu and Inosuke, join one of the most powerful swordsmen within the Demon Slayer Corps, Flame Hashira Kyojuro Rengoku, to face the demon aboard the Mugen Train on track to despair.

Where to watch: Funimation/Crunchyroll (extra note: both platforms have the Mugen Train Saga if you’d rather watch this as an episodic anime arc)

Physical release: Funimation

Review quote: All the characters are in top form, with visually stunning battle animation coupled with those sweeping musical scores that get you pumped every time a character grabs their sword. Honestly, I’m always stuck somewhere between “these attacks look like paintings I would hang on my wall” and “this battle choreography lives rent-free in my head.”

You can check out my full review here.

Watch this movie if you’re in the mood for: Some good, shonen, sword fighting action backed with beautiful animation, cool (and sometimes silly) characters, and a shirtless, boar headed man.

SHIROBAKO the Movie

 

Synopsis: Four years after the events of the series, Musashino Animation has gone through unprecedented changes and things are looking bleak for the studio. One day, Aoi Miyamori is offered a role managing a new theatrical animation project. With only a few months left before the deadline, can MusAni complete the project in its current state? It’s up to Aoi to work alongside both familiar faces and new to finish the project in time!

Where to watch: Was in theaters over the summer, no word on a streaming release, but it’s available physically over at Shout! Factory.

Review quote: Creativity is difficult, not just from a writer’s block perspective, but because there are so many unaccounted variables that can knock you flat on your ass. People take you for granted, place unrealistic expectations on you, assume that you’ll work for peanuts just to get your work out there, and overwork you to the point of you having to decide if you should send your work out just to get it done or push through fatigue to make it better. Anime is kinda notorious for doing these things, but really, all creative industries are guilty of this in some way, shape, or form.

SHIROBAKO the Movie shows all of that, but it also remembers that it’s anime and has cute, silly moments that you’d only see an anime do. Only in anime would you see a girl working through her thoughts by talking to stuffed toys that come to life, leading to a music performance that pays tribute to different styles of animation.

You can check out my full review here.

Watch this movie if you’re in the mood for: A fun, but truthful look at the work it takes to create an anime, how hard work can pay off (and sometimes, not pay off at all), and how creative fields are frequently taken for granted.

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission

Bakugo Deku and Todoroki go grocery shopping like good boys do

Synopsis: When a sinister organization threatens to wipe out all superhuman powers, the fate of the world is on the line. With two hours until the collapse of civilization, Deku, Bakugo, and Todoroki manage to work as a team, but there’s still one problem. Deku’s on the run for murder.

Where to watch: Was in theaters over the summer, no word on a streaming or physical release, but it was licensed by Funimation.

Review quote: Honestly, this is a movie you could show someone in an attempt to get them to understand why My Hero Academia is such a beloved franchise, at least, if you wanted to do so in a way that took less than two hours and told a complete story in that time. The fights are top tier. The characters are relatable. And it’s just a fun way to take part in such a wonderful franchise.

However, if you’re a fan like me, this movie is the definition of a delightful popcorn flick that’ll tide you over until we get that sixth season.

You can check out my full review here.

You can also check out my interview with the dub cast here.

Watch this movie if you’re in the mood for: RODY FRICKIN’ SOUL!!!

Also, if you want some fun, anime superhero action, loveable characters, some REAL stressful fight scenes, and a very good birb.

Bonus Live-Action Anime Adaptation: Tokyo Revengers

Mikey and Draken in Tokyo Revengers

Synopsis: A naked, tattooed yakuza is bloodied and terrorized by a new breed of sharp-dressed gangsters in a luxury car. The Tokyo Manji Gang is flexing its muscle, and a furious conflict within the underworld is in motion. It even affects the life of Takemichi Hanagaki, a slovenly, cowardly loser in his mid-twenties, when he hears the news that his high-school sweetheart and her brother have been killed. Then Takemichi himself is attacked, pushed onto the subway tracks as the train barrels down on him. At the last second, however, Takemichi is transported 10 years into the past, becoming his tough, cocky teenage self again. He’s right back where the madness all started. He may just have a chance to change the future – if he can survive his own past!

Where to watch: Nowhere, yet, as it was released in theaters in Japan over the summer. I was fortunate enough to catch it at a virtual film festival. Still hoping for a release in the U.S. for this, be it in theaters or streaming (or both).

Review quote: It’s obvious that the goal was to make a good movie versus trying to set up for several films that covered all of Tokyo Revengers, and, well, I think they succeeded. I think it’s the perfect way to entertain existing fans and even create new fans who might be wondering just how far Takemichi’s story goes. Tokyo Revengers is a hell of a ride that fans of the anime/manga — and anyone who just feels like watching a good beat-em-up film — will enjoy.

You can check out my full review here.

Watch this movie if you’re in the mood for: A solid, beat-em-up film based on a fantastic anime series. The characters are engaging, the actors they got for them are SPOT ON, and the movie focuses on telling a complete story instead of trying to set up threads to future projects.

Here’s to a year that was full of amazing anime content!

(Image: Funimation/Crunchyroll)

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Author
Image of Briana Lawrence
Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)